U.S. Open with roof closed 'like watching tennis in an aircraft hangar'
NEW YORK -- From his noseblood seats just under the closed, retractable roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Dave Harris had to raise his voice to be heard.
It's not exactly what he expected from his first trip to the U.S Open. A constant, low-grade noise, somewhere between a buzzing hive and a rushing waterfall appeared to combine the collected murmurs of more than 20,000 fans, the hum of the air-conditioning units and a driving rainstorm pounding on the Teflon fabric roof.
"It's too loud," grumbled Harris, who traveled from Jackson, California, to bring his grown son to the tournament as a birthday present. "All the sound just stays in."
Fan complaints rose above the din on a rainy Thursday that gave them their first extended look at what happens when the world's largest tennis stadium becomes the world's largest tennis arena. While all acknowledged it was better than having to deal with rain, most said it created an atmosphere that will take some getting used to.
"It's like watching tennis in an aircraft hangar," said Max Linnington, a British expat who lives in New Jersey. "When it was nearly empty, you could really hear the air conditioner. When it's full, you could hear the people. And when it was raining in, it was deafening."
"It accentuates all the sounds," he said. "I prefer it without the roof, actually."
Leslie Leith-Tedeschi, a Manhattanite who has been coming to the matches for years, said the buzz is mostly people's conversations. "They used to just go up in the air," she said. "Now they bounce off the roof."
Some of the first players to compete under the roof also weighed in, with at least one, Italian Andreas Seppi, putting the fault on the fans. "The people, I think, are used to going to baseball and keep talking. There really was a lot of noise."
Second-seeded Andy Murray noted that the closed Ashe was loud, definitely louder than the retractable-roof stadium at Wimbledon but that it was up to athletes to adjust to such variables. Ultimately, Murray said, it will be up to the fans and the television networks to decide if major changes need to be made.
U.S. Tennis Association executive director Gordon Smith said tournament organizers were collecting data on the $150 million roof but that, so far, he hasn't heard a "peep" of complaints from spectators. Regardless, he said, "we've got a new venue, obviously when you enclose a building you're going to expect some additional noise."
"It's passionate," he said. "We want our New York fans to be passionate. It's really a positive, great atmosphere in there."
At least one fan watching Murray's match agreed. Liat Haigh of Australia said more important than any noise issue was the relief that she didn't have to worry that her trip to see the U.S. Open wouldn't be ruined by rain.
"I've come a long way and I want to see the tennis," she said, dismissing any buzz about the buzz. "It's part of seeing it live and part of the atmosphere. If you don't like that, watch it on television."